All around the world, we see a growing concern for the heating planet, as shown by the estimated 4 million people who showed up for the Climate Strike rally on Sept. 20. On that day, the world became more aware of the young Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, and the many other young people who care about our planet’s future.

Young climate leaders can be found around the world, including right here in Oak Park and River Forest. Some are joining the newly formed program, It’s Our Future, started by Seven Generations Ahead in collaboration with One Earth Film Festival and multiple community partners. Through this program, we’re getting support to equip us to advocate for climate change solutions — and our futures.

The need for such a group in our community is important because our generation’s future is at stake. We only have little more than a decade to keep global warming to a minimum of 1.5 C, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The urgency of this prediction has ignited our collective energy to take action for our future.

To that end, It’s Our Future provides a platform for local young leaders to mobilize our community in seeking effective climate solutions. Here’s what we plan to do:

We will work alongside the PlanItGreen Core Team to ensure the Oak Park and River Forest communities can reach their stated sustainability goals. The 2018 PlanItGreen report card gave the community a D in the area of energy, a C for waste, and a B for environmental education. We have created our own PlanItGreen Youth Core Team to help improve the grade in those three vital areas:

We intend to urge OPRF High School to become more sustainable. We will advocate for the reduction of plastic and Styrofoam in the cafeteria, as well as the introduction of compost. Additionally, we will urge OPRF to buy green energy.

We want to see all the new developments, especially high-rises, become as environmentally friendly as possible, particularly in the area of energy usage. 

We will engage with leaders in the community about their important role in effectively addressing our local climate-related issues.

Many Oak Park and River Forest residents are already conscious of climate change and actively involved in local initiatives to combat it.

In fact, it was an Oak Park native, the late Wallace Smith Broecker, who is credited with popularizing the term “global warming.” He is sometimes referred to as the “Grandfather of Climate Science.” We want to follow in his footsteps by enacting change and spreading awareness about what is happening and what can be done.

Evidence continues to build that shows we are facing a climate crisis — and it’s happening where we live.

In the Great Lakes area, frequent and heavy rainfalls are causing inconsistent water levels in Lake Michigan. Beaches on Chicago’s lake shore are disappearing. Fish populations are changing. A report from the Environmental Law & Policy Center draws on the work of scientists and experts who have assessed how the shifting global climate impacts the Great Lakes region. We believe the science.

Although It’s Our Future has big plans, we believe, as Greta said, “Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people, to give them hope, but I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire — because it is.”

The time to take action is now. We can’t delay. It’s our future and we deserve to live it. 

We are still growing It’s Our Future. We need more members to contribute their voices, their ideas. If you are between ages 12 and 21 and want to join us, email

Charlotte Meyer, Ellie Raidt, Charles Roeger, Jess Senger, and Elizabeth Short are organizers of It’s Our Future.

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